The Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (CASARD) project was implemented in Kenya and Tanzania through the introduction and adoption of profitable conservation agriculture (CA) practices. The first phase of CA SARD was from June 2004 to August 2006 while the second phase covered July 2007 to March 2011. The project was implemented in 5 districts of Kenya and 6 in Tanzania with Ministries of Agriculture taking the country implementation lead through their respective research institutions namely Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) for Kenya and Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) based in Arusha for the United Republic of Tanzania. CA-SARD has been executed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the regional coordination and administration functions were performed by the African Conservation Tillage Network (ACT). Others are the Paran (Brazil) Agronomic Institute (IAPAR) and its associated agribusiness foundation FAPEAGRO, NGOs, farmers, Farmer Field School (FFS) Networks, private equipment hirers and local CA equipment manufacturers.
Project objectives: The development objective of this project has been to improve food security and rural livelihoods of small and medium scale farmers in Kenya and Tanzania by promoting CA.
The Immediate Objectives were:
1. Adoption of profitable CA practices by smallholder farmers in Kenya and Tanzania expanded;
2. Supply/availability of CA tools and equipment to farmers in target districts in East Africa enhanced in general and specifically through improved networking from Brazil to East Africa (by stimulating and facilitating private sector interest and capabilities in manufacture, retailing and hire of CA tools and other inputs - and through facilitating enhanced private sector interaction between East Africa and Brazil);
3. Strengthen institutional mechanisms (including consolidating ACT) to stimulate and sustain knowledge sharing and to foster active government support, farmer innovations and in general up-scaling of CA in the two project countries, in the Region and beyond.
Project interventions and processes:The CA-SARD II project was implemented through 282 FFS involving 8460 men and women farmers. Under the FFS approach, a gender-balanced group of 20-30 farmers are empowered to learn CA by doing practical group work to implement CA on a validation plot that is typically from ½ to 1 acre in area. Some characteristics of the FFS are that: farmers are considered to be experts and will learn by doing, extension workers are facilitators not teachers, scientists work with, rather than lecture at, farmers. The FFS programme/curriculum is integrated and seeks to offer a holistic approach; training follows the seasonal cycle (from land preparation to harvesting). During that time farmers undertake an Agro Ecological System Analysis (AESA) of their developing crops. There are regular group meetings, educational materials are learner generated and group dynamics are nurtured to build communication skills building, solve problems and foster leadership.
With regard to dissemination and increased adoption, the "heart" of the project strategy was to mobilize and stimulate communities into self-motivating collective responsibility and actions through the actions of FFS groups.
The project encouraged and facilitated field days and farmer to farmer exchange visits (within villages, districts and across Kenya and Tanzania) with the intention of having farmers share and exchange CA information and knowledge amongst themselves.
Successes and achievements: The main successes and best practices from the CA-SARD II project are: